Tag Archives: adventures

Edinburgh: Friends, pubs, and lots of walking

For the past year, I haven’t updated this little blog with anything of much importance because I haven’t felt like I’ve got anything important to say. Through the labour pains of birthing a monstrous Master’s thesis and the struggles of coming to grips with a new field of study, the imposter syndrome has hit me pretty hard. That being said, I want to  shake things up and get my head back in the writing game – so I’m starting gently with some of the best bits of our recent and soul-renewing trip to Scotland! First up – Edinburgh.

Planning for this trip started last spring, when Jess announced her upcoming nuptials. She’s like a sister to me and I had always wanted to visit the Scotland – so stars aligned and the trip planning began! After some serious research (my second favourite part of taking a vacation), I came up with a fairly intense highland roadtrip itinerary. But first, we spent three days in Edinburgh.

Day 1 involved fatigue (thanks, Aer Lingus), food (at the Dublin Airport, Teuchter’s Landing and BrewDog), and nighttime wanderings around Old Town.

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The time we had the Royal Mile to ourselves at 10pm on a Thursday

Day 2 started with wonderful coffees and catchups with Jess at Willams and Johnson Coffee Co. Then we moseyed up Arthur’s Seat for a stunning, sunny (!) view of Edinburgh. We popped by Dishoom for tasty Indian food and rosewater cocktails with the lovebirds, then struck out on our own for a pub crawl through Old Town and the Grassmarket.

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The view from Arthur’s Seat

Fighting fatigue, Day 3 took us to Toast for breakfast by the Water of Leith, then to the Princes Street Gardens (past a disturbingly loud, mid-morning EDM festival), Dean Village, and New Town. We collapsed at Jess and Murdo’s flat in Leith for some homemade pad thai, scotch, and cat cuddles.

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Along the Water of Leith
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Dean Village; possibly the most charming place on earth

Even though they were fighting an early morning washing machine-related leak, Jess and Murdo graciously drove us downtown to pick up our noble highland roadtrip steed on the morning of Day 4.

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Everyone is terrified about my driving and this is an unflattering photo

After almost side-swiping a Merecedes-Benz and a lot of deep breaths, we bid a temporary farewell to Edinburgh (on the wrong side of the road).

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10 minutes into the roadtrip, I’m still surprised Aaron had time to take this photo in between screams of sheer terror

Up next, I attempt to summarize a huge swath of the western highlands in a single post and spend way too much time trying to decide how many panoramic photos of mountains is reasonable. That’ll be Days 4-6; Loch Lomond, Glencoe, the Isles of Mull and Staffa, Glenfinnan, and Camusdarach Beach. Stay tuned!

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Mount Carleton and the Kedgwick River

Summary of CCFFR-SCL

If you want to know more about the 2016 Canadian Conference for Fisheries and Aquatic Science (and the Society of Canadian Limnologists), look no further! I wrote a summary for the Canadian Aquatic Resources Section of the AFS recently – check out the storify of our #scicomm session too 🙂

Summary of CCFFR – SCL

The Writing Centre, This Week (Or, Where There’s a Will, There’s a Wei)

I work at a drop-in writing help centre at one of my university’s libraries. As such, I get a lot of hilarious clients who have weirdly beautiful and/or despair-inducing ways of expressing themselves on paper. I’ve decided to start collecting these phrases and experiences here for posterity. 

Unintended poetry:
His name was “Wei”. When he came to Canada, he chose “Will” as his English name. While debating which name he should use on his resume, he divulged that he had heard the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” on Chinese television as a child. So – where there’s a Will, there’s a Wei.

Frustrated with articles: 
“You just throw around “the” like confetti. How does this word work? I don’t understand and your language is stupid.” 

Sentence in disorder:
‘Order, which is opposite to chaos and order: that can be exploited.’

Questionable argument:
‘The only “heroic action” that should be taken is by those with the ability to eliminate the threat directly – such as concealed carry firearm holders in the US.’ [regarding heroic action during school shootings…]

Shrugging, academically: 
‘The convergences of the left and right solutions are pretty much similar.’

Clinch it with cliché:
‘This action limits the reach of the long arm of the law.’ 

The Hawaii Chronicles Pt. V (Or, Getting Laughed At By Locals With 4WD)

Due to the height of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (the two highest volcano peaks on the Big Island), the island’s weather is drastically different from coast to coast. The east coast receives almost all of the rain, resulting in a lush and very green landscape. The west coast is much drier, and has some of the most stunning beaches in the world. We decided to spend half our time on the wet side and half on the dry, so Day Five was our transit day. Instead of taking the Saddle Road (we had already done that), we took the Hawaii Belt Road to the south. Along the way we stopped at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – famous for sea turtle viewings.

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Unfortunately, the only wildlife we saw was this goose:

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We also stopped for this stunning and oddly Irish view.

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Just past the village of Na’alehu, the one-lane South Point Rd. took us to – you guessed it – the south point of the island. The point is very windy and dry, which was an impressive contrast to the lushness we had experienced over the past few days.

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At the very end of South Point Rd., there is a slightly sketchy trailhead with a hand-painted sign reading “Green Sand Beach”. The road it points to is outrageous – deep ruts and erosion make it impassable unless you had some sort of four-wheel drive vehicle. Consequently, there are numerous locals who hang out and offer rides to people lazier than us… But honestly, hiking is much better.

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The hike follows the stunning coastline, and the vividness of the colours alone is enough to make you want to explore on foot.

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But of course, there’s the gem at the end – a green sand beach. Seriously.

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Olivine is a gemstone commonly formed during volcanic eruptions. This beach used to be a crater full of a rare pure olivine deposit, until the action of the ocean eroded away one side and deposited a swath of olivine sand on the other.

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The sand is actually green. I couldn’t get over it.

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On our way back, with the excitement wearing off, we noticed how truly dry it was. The dust caught in our noses and the locals laughed by us in their four wheel drive trucks. By the time we got back to the car, our legs looked like this:

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After quick wipe down and a few sips from the trusty cooler, we headed to our accommodations in Kailua-Kona – but not before stopping for some lava field weather viewing:

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When we finally made in to our Airbnb in Kona, we were in for an unpleasant surprise… We had booked several months in advance at a little place on Royal Poinciana Way, with sparkling reviews. However, contrary to the email sent to us by our host just days before, we arrived at a completely dark, locked house. With no cell service, we waited around for about an hour before heading to a payphone (luckily they still have those in Hawaii…). We called our host’s number and spoke to her “friend” who was in Hilo for the week. Confused and upset, all we could absorb from the conversation was the location of a hidden key.

Once inside, we settled into our room. Shortly after showering and eating, a couple of loud and botox-ed Oklahomans showed up. Turns out they weren’t the owners of the house (as they claimed), they were family members of our host. The older of the two talked our ears off for three hours about Oklahoma, her family of pharmacists, and how Trump seemed like a reasonable candidate for president because “he doesn’t owe anyone anything”. We had our Canadian education system compared to Mexico’s and our provinces referred to as “providences”. One of them chastised us for the fact that Canadian gas stations don’t accept American money (I wonder why…). And for the entirety of our stay we could not get away from the words ‘scripture’ and ‘gospel’. At one point I overheard a conversation about speaking in tongues…

On top of the complete disconnect in interests, dispositions, and worldviews between us and our hosts, we did not meet our actual host for the duration of our stay. On Day Seven we were asked to move rooms so that more family members could arrive. On Day Eight the four-bedroom, two bathroom house had 16 people in it – only six of them were paying guests and our host was nowhere to be found. By the time our stay was over, we couldn’t wait to leave. Moral of the story: don’t stay with Jolee if you’re going to Kailua-Kona!

One positive outcome of these unpleasant circumstances was our desire to get away from our accommodations – we were forced to explore as much of Hawaii for as long as possible each day. And, through it all, how can you really be that upset when you’re in Hawaii?


Up next, MANTA RAYS, coffee, palm trees and Aaron’s close encounter with a humuhumnukunukuapua’a.